This time of year, it seems everywhere I turn all I see is red and green. And I’m not just talking about holly and garland, but project status reports. Unfortunately for me, it’s more red than green this time of year.
While we rely on red and green (and yellow) to gauge the health of our work, it’s important to remember that there is more to it than just the pretty colors. There is often the status we report and the real, implied status. For example, I may mark a project as green or yellow, when it really should be red. Why would I hide the true health? Maybe I’m an optimist and think it will work out, but more likely because of the perception and ramifications that come along with it. As you consider what health to give to your projects, here are several things to keep in mind about each health color.
Ah, green. It’s a deep breath of fresh air, the smile of a job well done, and a pat on the back from your boss. It says “nothing to see here” and “you can ignore me.” While we want our projects to stay green forever, indicating everything is on track and going as planned, it’s important to check in and not go on autopilot. It’s unlikely that your project will stay green during its entire duration, as we know unplanned events come our way despite our best planning efforts. As long as you aim to come back to green, it’s fine to go yellow or red.
Yellow is your friend! There is an in-between that is useful to convey uncertainty and that extra attention is needed. This is more of a warning, an ask for guidance, and your chance to get the right people involved now so that you can get the project back on track before things go from bad to worse.
Red is the color of energy, passion, and action. When it comes to project health, it tends to set off alarm bells and says “I need help! Things are going wrong!” However, it’s not always bad or negative. The most important thing to remember is that it is not a reflection of your project management skills! Events happen that are our of your control all the time, and you would only be a naughty project manager if you ignored those problems and hid them under a cloak of green health. Choosing red is the only way to bring these issues to light so that others can give assistance and remove roadblocks.
Life After Red
Once the issues that turned the project red are resolved, or on a plan for resolution at the least, it’s time to document your lessons learned. Are there changes that you could make that would eliminate this for the next project manager working on a similar project? Put all the details in a searchable, convenient place for reference.
I like to reflect on what I have learned going through this experience. At times it is related to planning and how I could have estimated better. Other times it is related to execution and how I could have taken a different path. Either way, it is a moment for me to realize that red signifies a growth opportunity and a chance to not repeat the same mistake.
So if you find yourself sick of red and green, remember that they are your secret weapon to getting and keeping your projects on track. Very few projects will stay green for their entirety. Keep reminding yourself that there is nothing wrong with going red, even if it is in your rosy cheeks.